“WOW!” aka a post about decluttering

Have you ever looked at a home for sale that has been staged? What is the first thing you notice (besides how amazing it looks)? The bookshelves aren’t full of books and picture frames. There is a total of like 2 large pieces of furniture in every bedroom. You could count the number of knick knacks in the entire house on two hands. When I counsel a home owner who is about to put their house on the market on how to prep the inside of their home, I tell them to box up about 75% of their stuff and leave only a few pieces of art, knick knacks, and furniture. The reason for this is because when a buyer walks through a home they are considering to buy, we want them to be able to see how each space looks with furniture in it, but not be distracted by the little things, or turned off to the home because their taste in decor differs from the seller’s taste.

This is a photo of one of the bedrooms of a previous listing that we had staged. We staged it as a child’s room. I have four kids. None of their rooms look like this. They have about 500% more stuff everywhere.

So why do I bring up staging? Because we can take some of the strategies of staging and apply them to our actual homes and transform our homes from “wow” (she said in an overwhelmed sort of way) to “WOW!” Here are the basic principles to doing that:

  1. Declutter
  2. Define every space
  3. Stage your home
  1. Declutter

The longer you live somewhere the more stuff you accumulate (usually). The first thing you can do is declutter. The definition of “declutter” is to “remove unnecessary things from an untidy or overcrowded space.” When we declutter we 1) look at what we have, 2) throw away broken items, 3) donate/give away/sell duplicates and unused items, 4) Put back what is left as efficiently as possible. Here are the steps to decluttering in more detail:

First: Pick a room, like this kitchen, for example

Second: Take out every single item in that room, leaving it completely empty. If I was working on this kitchen pictured above, for example, I would take everything out into the backyard and lay it all out like on a tarp or something, so I can see everything. Leave the fridge obviously.

Third: Organize what you have into groups. The items in this kitchen, for example, you would group into piles such as, plates, cups, mugs, cookware, silverware, general utensils, small appliances, plastic bags, and so on.

Fourth: Go through each pile, one at a time, and keep only what you need. If you have 3 can openers, keep the best one. If you have anything that is broken, throw it away. Put duplicates and excess that aren’t broken into a box that you will take down to the local thrift store when you are done. If you PROMISE to do it quickly, you can opt to try to sell some or all of those items or give them to someone you know who might need them. Just don’t leave the box(es) sitting in your house for weeks on end. It defeats the purpose of decluttering.

Fifth: Now that you have made your piles smaller, take inventory. Make a crude sketch of your kitchen or room, and plan out where you are going to put everything back into. I sketched one up based off of the kitchen photo above:

Sixth: Stage the room. What that means is you want to put things on the shelves in neat, orderly ways, as if a photographer from House Beautiful Magazine were coming to photograph your kitchen and feature it in their next issue for an article about organized kitchens. Do not overload a shelf or over-stuff a drawer. Put things you use all the time in easy to reach cupboards and shelves, and things you rarely use up high or way in the back down low. Lots of little things, like spices, bottles of medicine, plastic cups, for example, should not be out in the open, as it visually looks like clutter. If you find that you just have more stuff than you do cabinets, shelves and drawers then you need to 1) repeat steps 2-4 until you can fit everything, OR 2) Buy something you can store things in. One cool hack I saw in a decor magazine, was someone took a cool looking old credenza that was about waist height and put a glass top on it and made it into a kitchen island. undefined Lots of storage in there! Your local glass store can make you a glass top in a day and it won’t be expensive! Read on for more tips:

TIPS for kitchens:

*Use baskets to put small items in on shelves so you can just pull out the basket and get what you need. Use a silverware organizer for your junk drawer.

*If you have missing cabinet doors, depending on your budget, you can purchase replacement doors either at the local big box hardware store or a habitat for humanity restore if your community has one. If you can’t purchase a replacement door, consider hanging some fabric of a solid, neutral color, using a small tension rod for curtains. Covering up those open cupboards will help make your kitchen look less cluttered.

*Clear off your refrigerator and put your favorite pictures in frames and hang them on a wall. Install a bulletin board on an available wall in the kitchen to put grocery lists and whatever else you used to stick on the fridge.

*Try to keep your countertops as clear as possible. Put small kitchen appliances like blenders, mixers, can openers and so on, in a cupboard, or displayed neatly on an open shelf. Consider having a sharp knife drawer instead of having all your knives out for display. Maybe have ONE container of everyday utensils and a microwave and a fruitbowl, and that’s it! Everything else can find a home in a drawer or a cupboard.

*If you need more storage and have the budget, consider purchasing either a corner shelving unit, armoire or small dresser to put in or near your kitchen to put things into.

*If you have glass cabinet doors and want to hide how full your cabinet is, line the inside of the glass with opaque, stick-on glass film that you can find at hardware stores. The pane of the left in the door in this picture has some of that opaque window film on it.

*Keep plastic grocery bags in the garage or in a drawer, and you don’t need 300. Recycle them from time to time!

*If you have open shelving, do not put more than one type of thing on a shelf if you want it to look organized. For example, put a stack of dinner plates on one open shelf, a stack of salad plates on another, and a stack of bowls on another.

Does this look like your office?

The “office”. For many of us, the office becomes a catch-all for crafts, Christmas decor, knick knacks, to-be-filed, and to-be-put-away-somewhere-but-I’m-not-sure-where. The solution to a room like the one above is: 1) declutter, 2) define the space and 3) Stage the room

First: Pull everything out of the room, except for the furniture itself, and lay it out somewhere where you have plenty of space to spread it out.

Second: Organize what you have into groups. If this were your office, maybe you would have a pile for knick knacks, a pile for craft items, a pile for office supplies, a pile for files, and so on.

Third: Go through each pile. Throw away broken things. Shred and throw away old documents you don’t need anymore. Put things into a giveaway or sell box that you aren’t using anymore or have multiples of.

Fourth: DEFINE the space. If you want this room to be a craft room and an office then you need to keep the office stuff together and the craft stuff separate. Clearly there is too much stuff in the office above. Something is going to have to give. This person either needs to move their office space out of that room so that the craft stuff can take over, or buy a large cabinet they can put their craft stuff in. The number one thing I see that could improve the room above is to change the furniture. There are two desks in this room. I would say there should be one desk and a large hutch/credenza with maybe a small table in the center of the room for crafting on.

Fifth: Stage the room. Installing a few floating shelves on one of the walls could help you get some of those knick knacks you want to display off the desk you so desperately need to clear off. Opt for one large storage unit instead of ten small boxes and plastic drawers. You can find very nice china cabinets or hutches on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for a fraction of the price of buying new. If you try to match the wood color of the desk you have in your office when you buy it, it will help make the office appear more put together. The #1 main thing is to try to put everything that is small into a place that you can’t see it, but you could still easily get to it. An example: In the office pictured above, on the desk the laptop is sitting on, there is a shelf that is crammed full of paperwork. If all that paperwork must stay there, purchase a basket that would fit in that space and put all the paperwork in the basket. That desk would instantly look less cluttered with just that one move! Another example: My husband and I used to both have a two drawer filing cabinet. We had both of them in our kitchen nook. When we moved we went through our files, threw away old documents we didn’t need anymore and consolidated both filing cabinets into five filing boxes that I keep in a closed cupboard in our new house. It made a big difference because filing cabinets just make a room look cluttered. It’s a filing cabinet curse. And it’s ironic because the purpose of filing cabinets is to organize a bunch of papers and keep them nice and tidy, but the filing cabinet ITSELF looks like clutter! The only way for a filing cabinet to not look like clutter is to have zero papers showing anywhere else in the room. Nice, clean empty desk top with a nice, clean filing cabinet sitting next to the desk, with nothing sitting on top of the filing cabinet! If you must, this is a must to having an organized looking office.

SO, yeah, this blog was about decluttering. You caught on. If decluttering a whole room at once is overwhelming to you, start with one drawer at a time. One shelf at a time. Let’s say you did one shelf a week. In 20 weeks you would have 20 shelves decluttered! WOW!

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